NFR: Sean Payton to Dallas next year?

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NFR: Sean Payton to Dallas next year?

Postby Pudge » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:57 pm

Probably not going to happen, but it could bring interesting level of drama to Dallas and New Orleans, if it's even possible more could be added next off-season that wasn't this past or other off-seasons in either place.

From Peter King's latest MMQB:


The Sean Payton Saga

On Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the contract extension Sean Payton purportedly agreed to in 2011 never was approved by the league office, and Payton will become a free agent at the end of this season, when his year-long league suspension for involvement in the Saints bounty scandal expires. On FOX, Jay Glazer, who is close to Payton, quoted Payton as saying he "absolutely plans'' to stay with the Saints, and the Saints, angry that the story leaked in the first place, insisted Payton was going nowhere other than on their coaching payroll in 2013 and beyond.

But the fact that the story got out tells me a few things. It's no lock that Payton will stay a Saint; if it were, he'd have agreed to a rewritten deal by now. Payton, despite his charred reputation from being the only coach in league history to be suspended for a year, would be sought after in the offseason if he chose to enter the market, with possible head-coaching vacancies in Dallas and Philadelphia looming largest.

And if he does leave, owner Tom Benson will likely feel betrayed -- unless Payton convinces him for family reasons he is best off in Dallas, where his family has relocated. Benson has been hugely supportive of Payton this offseason, leasing him an office and making sure he's tethered to the organization so he can make a smooth transition back to the team once his suspension is up.

Many of the possible coaching openings would be good fits for Payton. I doubt sincerely the Chargers could compete financially in Payton's $8-million-a-year league. I doubt sincerely Payton and the conservative Clark Hunt, Kansas City's owner, would be a good match. Ditto Payton and Carolina's owner Jerry Richardson. He has no connection with new Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam, though Haslam could be very aggressive if he decides to go all-in to try to get him.

That leaves New Orleans, Dallas and Philadelphia. If Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fires Andy Reid at the end of the season, Payton, who coached quarterbacks in Philly in 1997 and '98, would be intriguing to him, and I believe Lurie would try hard to get him. It's a Lurie kind of move, trying to head off Dallas at the pass and take the kind of jump with a playoff-ready team that would give them a chance to break out of their recent malaise.

Schefter reported the league quashed the contract submitted by the Saints last year because it contained a clause that said if GM Mickey Loomis left the team, Payton could be free to leave too, even if his contract still had time on it. That'd be a bad precedent for the league, a coach having the right to void his deal if some member of the front office were no longer in the house.

Would Payton be willing to trade that clause for money? Would Payton really consider abandoning Drew Brees with four years left on the great Brees' new contract when the coach returns in 2013? Could the Saints' current situation -- a troubled defense with a bloated future salary cap -- have a major impact on what Payton does? Will the Saints, battered and bruised by the mass suspensions and awful defensive performance through the first half of the season, feel pressured to do a new deal with Payton soon, with its rabid fan base in full panic mode at the thought Payton might leave? Does Payton feel it's time for him to be near his children every day, instead of being a commuter dad? I'd have liked to ask Payton or his agent, Don Yee, those questions on Sunday, but neither returned my requests for comment.

I do know this: From the time he was suspended last spring, Payton was not afraid of his job prospects. I believe he knew if Benson decided to part ways with him because of the bounty stain, which I don't think Benson wants to do at all, he'd be well-positioned to get a lucrative gig somewhere else.

Payton's a tremendous coach. He's imaginative, and he's a quarterback guru, and he can get players to follow what he says because they know what he says works. In this day and age, modern owners might not like the baggage of the suspension history, but Payton's so good at what he does that they'd deal with it. Happily, for many of them.

Now for the Cowboys. If you saw Jerry Jones' interview with Bob Costas Sunday night on NBC, you saw the Dallas owner give what I'd call a tepid endorsement of his current coach, Jason Garrett. I know Jones really likes Garrett, but the owner also has to be frustrated with the fact that Garrett's just 16-16 in his short career as coach, and 3-5 this season following a soft offensive performance in a 19-13 loss at Atlanta Sunday night. Awful clock management likely cost the Cowboys a good shot at a win at Baltimore three weeks ago, and Tony Romo and his receivers sometimes look as though they're all college freshmen going through orientation together. Jones liked Payton when Payton was on the Dallas staff coaching quarterbacks and the passing game from 2003 to '05, and they're similar people. They work hard and play hard.

Case in point, which you may remember from the 2010 Scouting Combine, from a Monday Morning Quarterback item I wrote then:

On Friday night, the Saints' staff at the Combine gathered in a private room at St. Elmo Steakhouse, the 108-year-old Indy foodie landmark, for a final celebratory nod to the Super Bowl won over the Colts. This is a group that likes its wine, and likes to have fun. At the restaurant, word passed that Dallas owner Jerry Jones would have his Dallas group in this exact room Saturday night for a team dinner. Jones, one of the waiters told the Saints' group, even phoned ahead to make sure a magnum of a wine he loved, Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon, was ready to be served at dinner.

Sean Payton told the waiter he'd like to have that wine, too. The waiter told him: Sorry, sir. We've got only one bottle of it left, and it's reserved for Mr. Jones.

Payton said he'd like to have the bottle nonetheless. I assume there was much angst on the part of the wait staff at that point. My God! Who do we piss off? One of the most powerful owners in the NFL, or the coach who's the toast of the NFL, the coach who just won the Super Bowl?

Here came the bottle of Caymus Special Selection, and the Saints' party drained it.

But drinking Jones' wine wasn't enough. Payton gave the waiter some instructions, took out his pen ... and, well, the Cowboys party found at the middle of their table the next evening an empty magnum of Caymus Special Selection cabernet sauvignon, with these words hand-written on the fancy label:

World Champions XLIV
Sean Payton

That's the kind of thing Jones will get a big laugh out of. And remember.

I don't know how this story ends. But with the Cowboys on the ropes, and the specter of Lurie facing a nutty fan base tired of the same old story, and with the Saints tired of being the NFL's punching bag, Payton could turn the biggest nightmare of his life into the biggest payday. Stay tuned.

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